Thursday 26 February 2009


Don't have an oven, you say?
Craving some chocolate cake made from scratch?
and only 2 eggs in your refrigerator?
Steamed Chocolate Cake

Don't despair...Asian "bakers" long ago discovered the joys of steaming their desserts.

I always enjoy a well-made Mah-Lai Goh (Malaysian Cake) at DimSum. It sometimes comes around on the steam carts and it isn't a very easily made cake. Not all restaurants can create the proper texture in the crumb. I like my Mah-Lai Goh tender, moist and full of caramelly flavour. Unfortunately, these cakes need to be eaten fresh from the steamer and don't last too well past a few hours.

I was clicking away around the internet the other day and came across a Steamed Chocolate Cake recipe. It called for evaporated milk and this tweaked in me nostalgia for those DimSum steamed cakes. Unfortunately, I've never seen chocolate anywhere in a Chinese Restaurant (too bad), but the technique is certainly Asian in technique.

A steamed cake may not sound too appealing to many, but in fact it can yield a very tender crumb. You don't get any of those golden brown edges on steamed cakes. Every inch of the cake, including the crust is very much like the center of the cake. The ease of this recipe is a bonus. You don't even need an electric mixer. In fact, most of these items can be found in your pantry. This cake only requires 2 eggs. It can be made into cupcakes or the batter can be divided.

The only problem is finding a vessel large enough to steam your 9" cake pan. I use a wide wok and set the cake pan on a rack in the water. The water doesn't touch the cake pan and I have about 1.5" clearance from the cake pan to my lid at least. My wok lid is too shallow and I need a higher-domed one, but I like it because it's glass and I can always check the water level without lifting the lid to take a peek.

Fortunately, this Steamed Chocolate Cake proved to keep better than the DimSum ones. I covered mine in plastic wrap and by the end of the evening, half the cake was gone. It was still moist.

My mom and the kids loved the cake and inhaled it during snack times. Don't worry...I didn't succumb to the sugar-cravings! I've kept on track and I'm still low-carbing. In fact, I've added running into my health regime and I've been running every day this week so far. Actually, correction: I run every night. By the time I've done my marking, put the kids to bed and everything else you need to do in a household, it's like 10pm! After my run and shower, I'm kind of still buzzed and can't always fall asleep until 11:30. There's no way I can fit the run in, in the morning because you-know-who still has night-wakings/nose-bleeds/night-terrors. These occur around 3a.m. consistently. So running in the a.m. is not happening! :p

In any case, the cake kept well into the next day for snacking in an air-tight plastic container. I didn't refrigerate it. I don't know if it can last longer than that because there wasn't anything left! Here's a Cakebrained tip: if you find the cake has survived into the second day and it's not as soft as you'd like, then simply re-steam that slice for a few minutes. Of course, this is only if you haven't frosted it!

This steamed cake is perfect even without frosting, but if you do intend to frost it, I'm sure it would prove to be excellent too. It slices very cleanly and isn't crumbly or dry. It would make a wicked cupcake. If you were making a tall frosted chocolate cake, I could envision a few problems after doubling the recipe: such as whether to steam both 9" cakes at once, to do them consecutively (would the batter hold well?) or finding two woks so you could steam both pans simultaneously.

Here's the recipe I found at Cuisine Asia.

(adapted from Cuisine Asia)
makes one 9" round

185g unsalted butter
180g granulated sugar
200 ml evaporated milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125g all-purpose flour
70g cocoa powder
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t vanilla
  • Line and grease a 9"baking pan
  • Combine sugar, evaporated milk vanilla and butter in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved and butter has melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add the beaten eggs into the slightly cooled mixture and stir until well mixed.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg mixture over the flour and stir until well mixed. Batter should be runny.
  • Heat up the steamer. Place a rack over the water.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place into the steamer on the rack. Cover the top of the pan loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. [I tented it slightly] Cover with wok lid.
  • Steam over medium heat for 45 minutes. [check water level occasionally to ensure the wok doesn't dry up]. Check for doneness by inserting a skewer into the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, steam for a further 5 minutes.

    Cool the cake in pan before turning out for further decoration.

    Sara said...

    I've never had steamed cake before, it sounds really delicious!

    Rina said...

    That's ... something I've never heard of before - thank you for sharing! I'm bookmarking and might just have to make this, just to say I've made a steamed cake!!!

    Anonymous said...

    Hot and Steamy I love the title! Nothing beats a moist, steamy and hot plain choco cake!!!! Looks fabulous COTB

    Snooky doodle said...

    wow surely this cake looks marvellous. the photos are great and the texture of the cake is super . Interesting I ve never tried steamed cake. Keep it up wow u go running at 10pm that s amazing.

    Sally said...

    Oh this does sound good. Could you serve it with a hot chocolate sauce too? Or would that be too much you think? xx Sal.

    Colleen said...

    Wow, I never knew you could do that. That looks delicious!

    That's awesome that you're running every night! I don't like running at night for the same reason - that I'm exahsted by the time the kids are in bed, and I don't want to get all woken up so that I can't fall asleep until late. But whenever you can fit it in is great! I had an awesome run yesterday, come check it out at my blog:

    Right now I'm off to go swimming at 6am, I need to get moving!

    Julia said...

    That cake looks lovely! I've never heard of steamed "baked" goods before. I'm going to be brave and try to make this one!

    Anonymous said...

    Nice! Looks like a great cake... I'm going to have to figure out a steaming contraption... I don't have a wok, just a large frying pan, but the lid is too low... I'll figure something out!
    Now I'm hungry for cake, and there's none to be found!

    Anonymous said...

    I once let out that Mah-Lai Goh is made from chicken fat (hence the lovely yellow tone), and that was the last time I was able to get my friends to share it with me at Dim Sum. Not that I have a problem finishing a piece on my own...

    Your chocolate cake looks fabulously moist and spongey, I must say.

    dessert girl said...

    Interesting! I've never heard of such a thing!

    Kiezie said...

    This looks very tempting! And delicious!

    Elyse said...

    What a great method! I love the idea of a moist crumb all the way through. Sounds like a method I'd love to try. And the fact that this cake stays moist--well, that's a great added bonus (not that I think this cake would last very long anyway :) )

    Cannelle Et Vanille said...

    i love seeing the texture of the cake so close. hmm... delicious!

    Dewi said...

    Marvellous looking cake, sounds really great. I love that tiltle too!

    test it comm said...

    That cake looks good. I have never tried steaming a cake before.

    Anonymous said...

    I just visited your blog for the first time's fantastic. I really love your photography, thanks for the description of your photo studio!

    Steph said...

    I was thinking about doing a steamed cake, but I couldn't find a recipe I could trust. It's so hard to find Asian cake recipes that work because they are so hard to find! I'm still searching for the BBQ pork buns at dim sum. I can never get that fluffy texture. Anyway.. I love steamed cake. Isn't it great to eat cake without frosting?!

    Cakebrain said...

    thanks for the comments, everyone! When I noticed the cake was a tad on the dry side the next day, I steamed it for 2-3 minutes and it was so gosh-darned soft, moist and delicious again, I couldn't believe it. It was as if I had freshly made it!

    Carolina deWitte said...

    My Chinese friend steams cakes in her rice cooker. It works for her, though I've never tried it myself. Hers are delicious though

    Ivy said...

    Never had steamed cake before but it looks good.

    Manggy said...

    Yeah, I was thinking exactly how Asian steamed desserts are! I think I do come across similar things when I watch infomercials for magic steamers or something (you know, cook vegetables, a fillet of salmon, pasta, and dessert all in one pot!). They might have used regular cake mix, though. That looks deep and moist- I love it! :)

    Jennifer said...

    What a fabulous recipe! My grandmother used to make steamed cakes a lot!

    Anonymous said...

    I've been wanting to make Asian "pudding", you safe my browsing time by sharing this recipe, thank's ;)

    Andrea said...

    This doesn't relate to the steamed cake but I wanted to let you know I made my husband a birthday cake this weekend using your classic buttercream recipe and the chocolate layer cake recipe from the Barefoot Contessa. I have never had such rave reviews from a cake before. I stopped making cake from scratch because they always seemed to be dry but this one was so moist. I added some cherry extract to the buttercream and it was so good! Thank you for sharing your recipes!

    giz said...

    Oh goodness...if you're going to serve this chocolate cake, you better be getting me some training time on the Olympic slopes :)

    Cakebrain said...

    Yay! I always use that particular recipe when it's an important occasion like a birthday and I want to make sure the chocolate layers are moist...and the classic buttercream recipe is so yummy, isn't it! I'm glad you and your guests were happy! what a neat idea to add cherry extract! I must try that sometime too!

    This cake is excellent straight out of the steamer so you don't need frosting. So it's okay to indulge! the cake slice is quiveringly moist and you eat it warm. you must try it one day! No training is needed afterwards because it's kind of healthy without frosting ;)

    waa!!obee said...

    I made it yesterday... It is really moist and delicious. I used the Valrhona Cocoa Powder and it is absolutely fantastic (it looks a bit darker but it is ok). I think it is even tasted better then the baked one. Many thanks for the great receipe ... as always!

    Cakebrain said...

    you know i wouldn't steer you wrong...this steamed chocolate cake rocks, doesn't it? thanks for commenting; i'm glad the recipe worked for you too!

    Ean said...

    It is superb, i made it is easy & superb & moist!!..Thanks for the recipi

    Jane said...

    Fascinating recipe! I am printing it out right now. Love your blog!


    Anonymous said...

    Hi i m Janny i really wanted to make a cake as its my hubby's b'day so was searching for a steamed cake and found ur recipe.I m gonna make this one,hope it turns out well.Thanks

    Ean said...

    hi Janny, dont worry,it is very very nice! i made twice, everyone praise it!..

    Bridget ~The Internet Chef said...

    how delicious is this post!! makes me want to reach for the steamer and bake a cake : ) hehehe


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